Earth Day meditation.

Sharing this meditation from my friend and spiritual guide, Katie Harmon-McLaughlin.

Happy Earth Day (which should be EVERY day).

“Meeting God is not a momentary ‘spiritual’ affair; rather, God is the ether, the reality, the body, the garden in which we live. God is never absent; God is reality (being). Everything that has being derives it from God (we are born and reborn by God). The entire cosmos is born of God, as is each and every creature. We depend on this source of life and its renewal absolutely. We could not live a moment without the gifts of God’s body- air, food, water, and other creatures. This realization is an overwhelming experience of God’s transcendence; it calls forth awe and immense gratitude. Yet, at the same time, as Augustine puts it, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Where can we go where God is not, since God fills heaven and earth?” -Sallie McFague, A New Climate for Theology

 

Take a few moments to breathe deeply and know that with each breath you are inhaling and exhaling divine love; the unifying, life-giving spirit in all of creation.

Consider how this matters for you now.

Consider your connectedness with all other life.

Consider all that you have done so far today; all that you have eaten, all that you have touched. Pay attention to the fabric of the clothing you wear and think about where it came from. Pay attention to the place where you sit and the materials that surround you. All of these came from the earth.

The gifts of God’s body, the earth, are sustaining your daily existence. Pause in gratitude. 

Some of the things you touch and wear and use today have caused earth destruction. Pray for forgiveness for the ways we sometimes live unaware as though we are disconnected. Pray for greater awareness and compassion in the days ahead.

Become aware of the surrounding air that embraces every part of you, touching your fingertips, resting on your shoulders and head. Know that embracing-stillness as God, holding you in each moment. Know that there is not a place you can go in this world where you will not be in this loving embrace.

There is no distance between you and God.
There is no distance between you and love.
There is no distance between you and the rest of creation because you are part of sacred creation and are daily sustained by this planet.

How will you live this holy connection today?

for more from Katie, visit the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Center Facebook page.

photo cred HM

Aparigraha April Challenge #3: One bag of Trash.

Aparigraha April Challenge #3: One bag of Trash.

“The maintenance of the Earth is crucial to humanity.  Rather than fighting with each other, we should be concentrating on the Earth.  Looking after the Earth, because we all live on it.  That’s where we get our sustenance.  Our Home.  Our Food.  Our Everything comes from the Earth.  And if the Earth goes, we all go.  It’s that simple.”  – Lorraine Mafi-Williams.

Americans produce a frightening amount of trash.  I mean, we literally sell our compounded trash to other countries.  (It’s true, this article will make you think twice about putting your next garbage bag on the curb.)  If you REALLY want to SEE your environmental impact reduced (it’s difficult to see the electricity we are saving by turning our fridge warmer or the carbon gases we aren’t omitting by walking rather than driving a car) then take this challenge: One Bag of Trash.

photo cred EMA

photo cred EMA

After a month of experimenting and solidly committing to the One Bag of Trash challenge, I realized that I am not an island.  As in: the communities and the systems that I am a part of are integral to my interaction with the Earth’s resources.  Even though it wasn’t a part of my One Bag of Trash game plan, I had to be willing to accept gifts (thanks for the giant bag of almonds from Costco, Mom) even if the gift was packaged in plastic.  I had to take the credit card receipt that automatically printed from Mildred’s Coffee House.  I even took a one-time use to-go cup from B-R advertising when the uber-nice receptionist offered to make me a free latte.  (Yes, please.  By the way, I re-used this cup 4 times before the plastic lid broke.)  But throughout the month I began to transform my thinking from: ‘What do I want?’ to ‘What do I need?’  You, too, will find this challenge to be eye-opening. 

Here are 7 EASY things you can do to reduce the amount of trash (and recyclables) generated from your home.

Aparigraha Challenge #3: One Bag of Trash.

  1. Wipe your face softly.  Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins.  It seems absurd to throw away a tree every time you eat a meal.  Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home suggests using napkin rings so that each member of your household can re-use their own napkin to avoid sharing germs.  My suggestion (to avoid buying new things!): If you have little kiddos in your house, then save cardboard toilet paper tubes and hold monthly craft time to decorate them into napkin rings.  Just throw the cloth napkins in your load of towels at the end of the week.  It’s not that hard.
  1. Re-wrap your gifts.  My friend Mary jokes that she re-uses gift bags until they fall apart.  That’s great.  Do that.  And then never buy another gift bag again!  I wrap all my presents in brown paper bags from the grocery store (it actually is cute when you use twine and little ribbon… and I totally feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder). You can also use the funnies from the Entertainment section of the newspaper.  Automatic double gift: the gift of laughter AND your present?  Win-Win-Win.

    hi, it's adorable. and wrapped in recycled brown bags

    hi, it’s adorable. and wrapped in recycled brown paper bags

  2. Forgo copious paper towel use.  I put my paper towel holder in a cupboard for one month.  Guess what?  I didn’t need even one.  I used a towel.  (How is that novel?  For some reason it is to my generation, who grew up on Hefty Paper Towel TV commercials).  And forgo paper towel use even out of the kitchen.  Clean your mirrors with newspaper.  It’s surprisingly streak-free!  Don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper?  Me.  Neither.  And yet, I seem to have them constantly on hand.  Price Chopper ads, printed on newspaper, are constantly showing up in my mailbox.  This is a difficult mailing list to have your name removed from (see below).  But it allows you to stop purchasing bleached, disposable trees in the form of paper towels for your cleaning needs.
  1. Opt out of needless junk mail.  When was the last time you ordered something from the Home Journey catalogue?  Or even the Victoria’s Secret catalogue?  Or EVER from the AeroGrow catalogue?  Right.  I can’t remember either.  Most of us simply move the catalog from the mailbox to the recycle bin.  While that is better than throwing it away, it’s even better to take 3.2 minutes and call the number on the back of the catalogue to remove your name and address from their mailing list.  They will warn you that their catalogs are manufactured six weeks in advance and you may still receive one or two more before your name is removed from the mailing list.  Say, “Great, thanks!” and hang up the phone.  One or two more 65-page double sided glossy magazines are better than one or two more years’ worth of cutting down trees.  Trust me.  This can happen in the same time it takes for one commercial break in Modern Family.  According to Catalog Choice, more than 8 million tons of trees are used each year to produce 19 billion catalogs.  Also, the average American adult receives 40 pounds of junk mail each year (Bach, Go Green, Live Rich). If the mailing is local (like your neighborhood’s grocery store flyer), Google: “How to remove my name from ___________ mailing list.”  It’s worth it.  (Remember, this isn’t just about cutting needless waste from your life.  It’s also about the bigger picture:  rainforests in Bolivia are still being destroyed at an alarming rate in order to meet paper and wood demand of the American consumer.  Stop hoarding.)
  1. Opt in for email updates and paperless billing.  I know, I hate it too: I don’t like online things knowing my name, address, and personal information.  (I’m with you, Helen.)  But paperless billing and receipts reduce waste immensely.  Remember, the goal is not only to recycle (that’s easy!) but reduce.   Paper goods make up 33% of Americans’ annual waste, and 51.6% of that is recycled.  That sounds pretty good, but that’s still 88 billion pounds (Loux, Easy Green Living).  Billion.  With a B Just get your bank account statement emailed to you. Seriously.
  1. Dry your clothes nicely.  Replace one-time use (very wasteful) dryer sheets with one piece of aluminum foil.  Place one sheet in the dryer, then leave it in for up to a month.  The foil reduces static cling and can be used repeatedly, unlike a dryer sheet.  If you love the clean smell that a dryer sheet adds to your laundry load, just spritz your wet clothes with an essential oil mix before drying.  I’m a fan of ZUM Eucalyptus spray.  Better yet, reduce your carbon footprint and your electric bill by letting your clothes air dry.  I won’t do this in the winter (it takes forever, I’ve found) but even a few months out of the year makes a difference.  In fact, washing machines and tumble dryers can account for up to 25% of your home electricity use (Yarrow, How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint).  That is outrageous.
  1. Mop Again.  Hi, I love my Swiffer Wet Mop.  I cannot manage a giant bucket full of sudsy, dirty water being wiped, repeatedly, all over my floors. However, what I did find was that the disposable one-time use wet Swiffer wipes are extraneous.  Use a dish rag.  Get it wet, spray some household cleaner on it and mop away, my friend.  Put the dishrag in the washing machine and use it again next week.  Not only do you reduce one-time use waste, but you also avoid buying the plastic tub that holds the Swiffer replacements in the first place.

Ok, so there are a few things that I’m still going to use and then dispose:

  • Toilet tissue.  I’m not holding a discussion over how many squares of toilet paper to use per butt wipe.  Just, be respectful.  And try to buy recycled toilet paper.
  • Q-Tips.  I mean, I know you can use your finger, but come on.  Q-tips feel so nice.  I’m working on reducing the number that I use daily by designating a special cloth for removing eye-liner instead of throwing cotton away every day.  But it I definitely can’t call this a success yet.
  • Razor replacement heads.  Being a clumsy person doesn’t lend itself nicely to using a single blade to shave your legs.  Ever.
  • Doggie Bags.  No explanation necessary here.

Try it for a week and let me know how it goes.  If you are REALLY into this idea, check out a very detailed account from Bea Johnson of how her family went ‘Zero-Waste.’  As in: no trash, no recyclables, no food waste.  It’s a phenomenal resource and I absolutely aspire to this one day.

Can’t wait to hear from you,

-lisa

we only got one Earth.

   our everything comes from the earth

 

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2:  Turn it Off.

If we are working from the framework of aparigraha as “trusting that we do not have to hold on to things for dear life, because life is already dear”, then we do not need to hoard the world’s most precious resources. 

These resources are buzzwords in environmental conservationist conversations. ‘Going green’ means using less resources like petroleum, water, and electricity.  And ‘going green’ is a natural extension of your yoga: realizing our innate connection to all living beings, including the Earth, compels us to live an ahimsa (non-harming) and aparigraha (non-hoarding) lifestyle.

Put simply: please stop hoarding the natural, or unnaturally and disastrously produced, precious resources.  We only have one Earth.

“What if our religion was each other,

If our practice was our life

If prayer, our words.

What if the temple was the Earth

If forests were our church

If holy water—the rivers, lakes, and ocean

What if meditation was our relationships

If the teacher was life

If wisdom was self-knowledge

If love was the center of our being.”

– Ganga White.

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Blue Mountains, Australia photo cred EMA

Wisdom in this case means seeing the intimate connection between honoring Earth’s resources and our yoga lifestyle. Overconsumption of the Earth’s resources is not yoga.  Overconsumption can be extremely disastrous (think landslides on over-logged hillsides and severe storms spawned by changing weather patterns and global warming) and even extremely violent (think communities of the Mexican desert who are downstream of the Colorado River and are limited to a trickle of water thanks to the massive hydroelectric dams providing electricity to Las Vegas).

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the popular lists of ‘Do This! to Go Green.’  I checked out over fifteen books from the library about this.  My book bag included a book titled something like ‘1,001 ways to Be More Eco-Friendly.’  (Are you kidding me?! One thousand and one things I need to do?!  Every day?!  No wonder people throw up their hands and say: ‘To hell with this environmentalist crap.  I’m just going to live my life.’ I was overwhelmed by page six!)

So, never fear, dear readers.  I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and distilled 3 resource saving techniques to recommend.  I’ve tried them all and they seem… manageable.  Took a little getting used to, but I gave it a good shot, and I think you should too.

Aparigraha April Challenge #2: Save your Energy.

1.    Unplug everything.  David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich, thinks I could save $94.00 a year on my electric bills by unplugging everything in my house.  He also thinks I can reduce my home’s carbon-dioxide emissions by 1,430 pounds a year.  I wasn’t not sure about this.  But, because I rent a house (therefore I will not buy an Energy Star dishwashing machine, or replace my refrigerator with a highly efficient model) I had to start somewhere.  We’ve all heard of phantom energy by now: even when your appliances are turned off, they continue to suck energy out of the socket, accounting for 27 million tons of CO2 emissions a year in the United States.  Your phantom load is also known as your Stand By or Idle current, and can total up to 15% of your monthly electric bill.  That sounds alarming and outrageous.  I really thought I was good about unplugging things when I left the house: my two space heaters, my standing lamps, my straightening iron, etc.  These are all double-checks before walking out the door.  But what about when I’m sleeping?  I can’t believe I never thought of this: electronics do not need to be plugged in at night.  Unplug everything when not in use, you say?  Here’s what worked and didn’t work for me:

Worked:

  • Electric kettle.  Unplug unless you are, literally, boiling water for a hot drink.  Also, do not fill the kettle (stove top or electric).  Only boil as much as you need for the drinks you are about to enjoy.  This can be a huge energy saver.
  • Phone Charger.  Like most of you, even though I know that small electronics use up an exorbitant amount of electricity, I will not give up my iPhone.  But for God’s sake, do not leave your phone charger plugged in the wall when your phone is in your purse.  What are you charging?  (Just your wallet.)  This one is easy.  Every time you remove your phone from the charger, take the charge out of the wall socket.
  • Computer.  A few times, I’ve closed my laptop (idle, schmidle) and plugged it in to charge.  And then left it charging overnight.  This seems like overkill.  Now I check every night to make sure nothing at my desk is plugged in, including my small desk lamp.  Most Green Guides suggest a power strip that can be turned “off” with one switch, controlling your electronics.  You don’t need your internet wireless router on all night either!

Didn’t work:

  • Dishwasher.  This is a huge, energy-sucking, appliance.  And I turn it on once a week (usually less, mine is terrible so I end up hand-washing anyway).  Is it draining energy the other six days a week when it’s empty and idle?  Actually. Yes.  But I couldn’t manage to unplug it… It’s behind the cupboard with Russell’s dog food and dog treats. It was an ordeal just to look for the plug/socket combo.  I’m not going to do this every time I want to wash my dishes.  #fail
  • Clothes Dryer.  Same thing as the dishwasher.  My small storage/ laundry room is packed too nicely for me to move the dryer away from the wall to unplug it.  It’s just too heavy.  But there are loads of other energy-saving tips I learned about drying clothes: choose the Air Dry setting because it uses less energy to heat the dryer, hang-dry all delicates, and always use the ‘less dry’ setting.  #50%fail

Here are some phantom energy vampires to look for in your house:

Window A/C units, air humidifiers, air purifiers (which don’t need to be on when you aren’t home to breathe.  Better yet: buy a plant), your massive TV (no one should be watching it while you are sleeping.  Unplug it.), your DVD/Blue Ray player, your Xbox, your wireless router, your coffee pot, your microwave (that one is obvious: you can nuke something in your microwave in less than four minutes… why is it plugged in the other 23 hours and 56 minutes of the day?), your blowdryer, your curling iron, your bathroom fan, your electric toothbrush holder, your electric shaver.  It may seem like a lot.  That’s because it is.  Stop hoardingStart Unplugging.

 2Cook smart. I learned about a bajillion things from the book How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint, by Jane Yarrow, about how to conserve energy in my kitchen.  I usually bake 2 or 3 things at once when I’m using the oven to save energy, but here are other tips I tried (that worked!) to use less energy:

  • Size your pots and pans.  Use a pot that fits the stove-top heating unit.   Yarrow says that choosing the right size pan and keeping the lid on for most of the cooking process can reduce energy use by up to 90%.  I realized how often I let my veggies cook and my beans warm up without a lid on the pot.  Easy fix.
  • Don’t preheat your oven.  What a huge waste of energy to cook nothing.  Unless you are baking a soufflé or a pastry/goodie, you don’t need to pre-heat your oven.  You shouldn’t have to adjust the cooking time, either.  The food will heat up as the oven heats up.
  • Turn off the oven four minutes before the cook-time ends.  The food will continue to cook through residual heat. 

3. Chill out.  Fridges and freezers account for about a quarter of domestic electric consumption (Yarrow).  I’m not great at fractions (sorry, Dad, your tutoring helped me get good math grades, but I still don’t really get them), but that seems like a lot.   I’m not ready to forgo a fridge (this podcast about the No Fridge Movement is awesome, by the way) so I better look for ways to make it more efficient.

  • Check your Temperature.  Fridges don’t need to be colder than 37-41°F.  My fridge doesn’t have a thermometer… it just as a dial that says ‘colder’ and ‘warmer.’  I guessed and put the dial in the middle.  Guess what?  Nothing rotted.  Turn your fridge down.
  • Spring Clean.  Dust the coils at the back of your fridge and increase its efficiency by 30%.
  • Organize.  Lots of cold air escapes when the door is open.  Keeping your fridge organized makes it easy for you to grab what you need quickly and seal it back shut.

Ok, friends, that’s only 3 challenges, but each of them has a few parts.  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.  (I bet you can find at least 6 things in your house to unplug.)  Happy Saving.

-lisa

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA

Berkeley, California photo cred EMA